Update: Corrected funding information, after feedback from miCab’s co-founders.
miCab, a startup from Cebu City, Philippines, has a solution to taxi-hailing woes. Unlike its competitors from the rest of the country and elsewhere in the world, the offer from miCab is quite cheap. For just PhP 5 (about US$ 0.12), smartphone users can hail a cab and expect to get one that’s just within a 2-km radius from their location.
Cebu-based miCab launched just a few months back, and the startup has already gained one of the city’s bigger taxi companies. Perhaps the biggest benefit for both the taxi-cab companies, the startup and end-users is that the app only charges an additional PhP 5 for successful bookings. Compare this with the PhP 70 (about US$ 1.75) additional fee that the likes of Grab Taxi and Easy Taxi charge the user – this is certainly a more affordable option.
The system works similar to other taxi-booking applications. Users can book a cab right from their compatible smartphones (currently Android devices), keying in specifics like their description, exact pick up point and destination. The system will then alert cabs in the 2-kilometer radius, and when a driver accepts the booking, he can no longer accept other fares.
Eddie Ybañez, Co-founder told e27 that the application differentiates itself from other popular taxi-booking apps by going beyond simply being a booking service.
Partnerships. For one, the company has partnered with Ken Taxi, which has a fleet of 200 cabs that are just one to two years old. This ensures that cabs are new, noting that cleanliness and the condition of taxi cabs is a big concern among commuters.
Offline functionality. Additionally, one big factor that differentiates miCab is that it works even without a data connection. Ybañez told e27 that while data plans are becoming cheaper and cheaper, not all users have persistent data connections. Without a WiFi or data connection, miCab will connect to the server through messages coursed via SMS, and will offer the same in-app user experience without the added cost.
Mobile wallet. miCab will also offer a mobile wallet functionality, which will let users pay directly from the smartphone app.
miCab is currently in its first phase, however, and Ybañez says functionality focuses on the booking aspect. The second phase of development will focus on the mobile wallet functionality, plus social network integration.
A finalist in IdeaSpace’s nationwide search for startups, the Cebu-based team launched as a bootstrapped activity, and received additional seed funding from Nextix Inc. mid-2013.
One of the main highlights of miCab is the fact that it plans to release its app on today’s major mobile platforms, including Windows Phone. However, Co-founder Ybañez notes the nuances in each of these. For example, the in-app SMS-based taxi booking happens seamlessly in Android because of the capabilities of that platform. “For other platforms, we will implement different means to achieve the same offline functionality.”
The Co-founder also told e27 that it should not be difficult to port the app’s native Android app into the BlackBerry platform. The Android app is already out on Google Play as a free download.
A big part of miCab’s support comes from the taxi companies that it has partnered with. Currently, miCab provides smartphones with data connections to its clients at-cost for PhP 30 per day (about US$ 0.75) each. The startup’s main business model comes from the PhP 5 additional fee that users are charged every time they make a successful booking.
But Ybañez and team are looking at the bigger picture, as the company is seeking to expand outside of its Cebu home base to take on other cities, as well. “Our target market is the ASEAN region, especially countries and localities where Internet coverage is not so good,” he told e27, adding, “Hopefully, after the Philippines, we can also launch in Southeast Asia and perhaps even in Latin American countries.”
With this in mind, the startup believes that franchising is the best way to go about with expanding its presence into other regions and countries. The team is currently at the Geeks on a Beach (GOAB) getaway, where it plans to discuss on business strategies with potential partners. “We are in talks with telcos, and we’re also finding partners for franchising,” said Ybañez.